Chase Winovich jumped back into the lineup in a big way against the Ravens, playing 98 percent of the defensive snaps, often off-the-ball in a new positional twist for the second-year defender.
After seeing his playing time bottom out in back-to-back losses to the 49ers and Bills, Winovich had his best defensive game as a pro and possibly found a new role going forward.
"I have always said that I am a football player just looking for opportunities to help the team win in any way possible," said Winovich after the victory over the Ravens. "This was a really fun game for a lot of reasons but getting to play off the ball again was definitely something I enjoyed since I view myself as a pretty versatile football player. I am just grateful to my coaches for giving me the opportunity to expand my role."
The difference in the speed and athleticism on the field for the Patriots jumped off the field Sunday night and Winovich's speed and motor were a big part of it. With a slate of mobile quarterbacks on deck, that speed should play a big role for the Patriots defense.
"Chase can run, he can tackle," said Jerod Mayo on Tuesday morning via Webex. "He hustles on each and every play, his motor is one of his key attributes and I thought he did a good job [in the game]."
Winovich recorded six solo tackles and was around quarterback Lamar Jackson a lot, creating the kind of game-changing pressure that was apparent in the first weeks of the season. The Patriots defense is at their best when Winovich is being disruptive and this new role could provide more opportunities for that.
"One thing about Chase, he's always willing and ready to do whatever you ask him to do," said Bill Belichick on Tuesday. "He learned the assignments on that and what to do and I thought I did a good job of it."
Trust essential for McDaniels' trick plays
Coming off another solid, turnover-free game by the offense, Josh McDaniels has seen some good things, but knows there's still a ways to go. They've found what works and are starting to stack successful outings.
"It starts with taking care of the football and staying in positive down and distance situations," said McDaniels. "All credit goes to the players, they've done some good things. We have a long way to go, a lot of improve on, but they've really tried to embrace what we've tried to do the last so many weeks. They've really worked hard in practice to improve and collectively I think we're making some strides."
That improvement has been largely tied to the offensive line, that is playing as well as any in football. Getting the front five healthy the last month has been a huge boost, especially the return of David Andrews who was outstanding against Baltimore.
"We've had some continuity upfront," said McDaniels. "You build some consistency and those guys, maybe more than anybody else, they have to work completely hand-in-hand with one another on every play. They're able to function well as a unit."
Yes, the Patriots run game led the way against the Ravens, but it was the Jakobi Meyers-to-Rex Bukhead touchdown pass that had everyone talking. McDaniels said the ability to run those kinds of plays depends entirely on the players earning the trust of the coaches.
"In order to gain the trust and faith, that during the course of the game, against a real opponent, that no matter what happens on the play they understand what to do and they can take care of the football and give yourself a chance to have success," said McDaniels.
The offensive coordinator said the team practices plays like this one throughout the season and if trust is established and the right moment arises in a game, he'll pull it out of the playbook.
"Sometimes, the best thing for those plays is you get a really bad look in practice and your players take care of the football and make good decisions, you get a lot of confidence in that."